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The scenario:

  1. You work on a SaAS application. Some of your users use your application heavily each day.
  2. Every 2 weeks (or month or whatever), a "User Group" of your most avid users gets together to talk shop and see how their progress is going in the context of a larger project they are working on.
  3. You can participate and potentially direct some group activities aimed at improving the application.

How do you gather valuable user information in this group setting?

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2 Answers

up vote 4 down vote accepted

Here's what I've done:

  1. Gather stories that can become requirements for improving your service
  2. Review your personas with them to verify they are accurate
  3. Conduct participatory design sessions where you actually work through design concepts on paper or with prototypes with them (see Righi's 3x3 or Dayton's Bridge)
  4. Discuss your research findings with them to gather design insights
  5. Conduct UI walkthroughs with them to get feedback, have them bring some of their stuff as part of this (related sites, tools, paperwork).
  6. Ask them to help you get to other users for individual usability test sessions, etc.

Note that they may not represent typical users or all targeted user segments. You should always try and gather data from several sources to be confident in your findings.

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Clear detailed answer - thanks. @Rain's answer is also very helpful, but I'm giving you the answer due to the extra details... Not a particularly objective question. –  peteorpeter Apr 21 '11 at 15:42
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Depending on the size of the group, it can be hard to engage with them all at once without it turning into a shouting match. However, there are a few ways to get some good feedback:

  1. Talk to the thought leaders in the group. Someone (Or a few someones) is probably organizing and running these events, or is at least a very active participant. This is a good person to know, and while you should be careful about it being a single data point, the thoughts of this person will be extremely useful.

  2. Show up and listen. Most people at user groups go to talk about what they use the product for and to seek advice on things that are hard to do. Make some notes and you can pretty quickly get a feel for what they do with the application and what the major sticking points are.

  3. Ask them to engage one-on-one. If you have surveys, forums, or other existing ways to gather user feedback make the group aware of it and invite them to participate there as well.

All of these ideas really depend on what sort of things you want feedback on, but this is a great resource and you're lucky to have it.

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Thanks for the great ideas! –  peteorpeter Apr 21 '11 at 15:40
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